United Arab Emirates

Reflections

A few years ago, I spent a fabulous day tramping around Dovedale in the Peak District of England. Along the 3 km route, we passed caves known as the Dove Holes, used the stepping stones to cross the river and meandered along the path until we reached Milldale, a village of beautiful stone cottages with gardens full of brighly-coloured flowers. It would be so lovely to live there! From there, we turned around and retraced our route and ended the day, back at one of my friend’s houses, with a BBQ and beers. It was such a great day out, not only for the green and glorious countryside, but I spent the day with some very good friends.

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Dovedale, UK

In Cyprus, my friend and I and my mum and dad visited the Paphos Archaeological Park. I love these kind of places, I’m fascinated with the history and this one didn’t disappoint. There were ruins galore, remains of beautiful mosaics, and an ancent amphitheatre. I was in my element. I remember it being so hot that day, but it was nice to get out into the countryside with three of my favourite people.

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Paphos Archaeological Park, Paphos, Cyprus

I arranged to meet my friend in Adu Dhabi and, one day, we took a trip to Dubai. We went up the Burj Khalifa, a real treat with phenomenal views for miles around. We stayed up there for a couple of hours and we were glad we did because the views became even more spectacular when the sun went down and the neon lights of the city came on. It was a trip to remember.

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Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Wat Po in Bangkok reminds me how much I love exploring my city. I love just going out, with my camera, and visiting my favourite places and there are plenty of new places that I find all the time. There is a never ending source of things to see.

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Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand

I spent seven weeks in New Zealand and at first I really didn’t want to be there. I had just come from Thailand and I missed everything about it, but thank God I got over that because I ended up having the best time there. I did so much and saw some wonderful things in that short space of time, including these Mirror Lakes. The water is so clear and still, it created some gorgeous reflections.

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Mirror Lakes, New Zealand

Whenever I used to go home, I always made the trip to Scotland to see my Nana, who is, sadly, no longer with us. This day, my mum and I had taken a trip to Edinburgh and we had lunch in the Halfway House. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Scotland, so I never really got to enjoy the city as an adult. It’s a beautiful place, and, although I wouldn’t choose to live there again, it’s nice to go back to my roots.

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Edinburgh’s Smallest Pub, Edinburgh, UK

New Zealand again, this time in Bluff. I’d rented a car, from Dunedin, and taken a road trip down to the south coast. It was New Zealand’s winter time, so I had the place, almost, to myself. I took the Bluff Heritage Trail, through wind-worn forests with brilliant views out to sea. I was also treated to a couple of seals playing in the surf. On the way back to Dunedin, I spent a very cold night in a little cottage in Owaka, so cold that I had to wear five layers, all under a blanket. Brrr! I can still feel the cold. It was in New Zealand that I acquired a love of walking and sightseeing.

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Bluff Heritage Trail, Bluff, New Zealand

In 2013, I graduated from The Open University with a Bachelor of Science with honours. I can’t tell you how proud I was! I wasn’t even going to go to the graduation ceremony, but a friend suggested I go, otherwise he thought I would regret it. I was glad I did. It was in Manchester and my mum came with me. The ceremony was a little nerve-wracking, but everyone there had all done something that was really worth this grand occasion. Afterwards, my mum and I took to the town and enjoyed a lovely meal and drinks in a Thai restaurant.

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Manchester, UK

Another day out in New Zealand and this day took me on a jaunt along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. It was on a day when I was supposed to be going whale watching, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. So I wrapped up and went off in exploration of the local area, through farmland and forests, until I reached the black-pebbled beach, and sea. I did loads of other stuff in Kaikoura, like horse-riding, wine tasting, cave exploring and having a Thai meal in a restaurant that didn’t have a liquour license, but not to worry, I had two lovely bottles of wine in my hand that I had bought from the winery. How’s that for good luck?

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Kaikoura Peninsula, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Whenever I’ve visited my rellys in Adelaide, they’ve taken me out and about to see stuff and we’ve gone to Granite Island a couple of times. It’s a small island next to Victor Harbour, small enough so you can walk around passed huge boulders, plants dancing in the sea breeze, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the cute fairy penguins which live there. It’s even better when you’ve got Ernie by your side telling you about all the different plants and animals there.

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Granite Island, Adelaide, Australia

I love going to Adelaide and the last time I went was for Christmas in 2014. I wanted to do some exercise, so my cousin suggested we hike up Mount Lofty. So, at 6.00am we started our day, along with my other cousin and his daughter, Amy. When we arrived at Mount Lofty, we stopped at this map which showed the different routes available to the top. I asked “Where are we?” Amy burst out laughing. She pointed at the map to show me a large, red “YOU ARE HERE” sign. She giggled “We are here!” I didn’t live that down for the next thirty minutes, she couldn’t stop laughing! It was a fabulous morning out in the sunshine, followed by a well deserved coffee afterwards.

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Mount Lofty, Adelaide, Australia

A few years back, I spent a month on Koh Tao with friends. One day, I said I was going to visit a resort called Mango Bay. The best and easiest way to get there is by boat, but I wanted to walk across the island and my friends jumped at the chance to come with me. It was such an arduous journey, slowly going up some very steep hills with nothing on our feet but flip-flops. When we finally made it to the top, dripping in sweat, we took a well deserved break at the Mountain Bar. The views from our vantage point made us forget how hard it was getting there.

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Views of Koh Tao, Thailand

Another day out in Adelaide with my two cousins, Scott and Craig. We walked along the Torrens River before heading back to the city through the botanical gardens. I love trees and this Eucalyptus camaldulensis, or river red gum, was worthy of a photo. It was thought to be living between 1,500 and 2000 years ago and it died when it was 500 years old! Imagine the things it has seen in its lifetime. We finished our walk at my favourite bar in Adelaide, The Austral, somewhere I try to visit whenever I’m in town.

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Ancient Tree, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Australia

Vachiratharn Waterfall is located in Doi Inthanon National Park, near to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand and I went there when I first came to Thailand in 2008. Throughout the day, I did bamboo rafting and stood on the highest point in Thailand. In the evening, the tour guide asked me out for a few drinks with him and his friends. We didn’t go anywhere fancy, just a little roadside bar, but we had such a fun night and it made me realise that, as a solo traveller, there may be times when you feel lost or lonely sometimes, and I certainly felt that throughout my travels, but things happen that always have a way of making you feel good again.

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Vachiratharn Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand

I like to be reminded of some of the things that I’ve done. I wish I had a photographic memory and remembered everything I have ever done, which is why I love to take so many photographs! 🙂

What makes you remember some of the things you’ve done? 🙂

Abu Dhabi and Dubai; a quick trip to the UAE

Abu Dhabi ay? I had never been to that part of the world before so when a friend of mine suggested it, naturally, I wanted to go.

As I sat on the flight to Mumbai, I knew this trip was going to be amazing and I couldn’t wait to spend time with my friend. I was full of excitement and anticipation of seeing a new part of the world. After a couple hours layover in Mumbai, I arrived at Beach Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi to find that my friend had already changed rooms because he had wanted a beach view for us. Unfortunately, there was construction going on so a beach view we did not get but the room we had was perfect with a view of the impressive buildings on Al Maryah Island on the other side of the water.

Beach Rotana is a 5 star hotel, luxurious in every way; 11 restaurants, a few bars, swimming pool, private beach and tennis courts. It could be very difficult to leave the place because whatever you want to do, the hotel caters for it. It really was stunning. I congratulated my friend on his impeccable choice. The water by the beach is so calm and clear, except when the odd boat passes causing waves to lap onto the shores of the small, man-made, beach. I sat on a sun lounger feeling like the cat that got the cream, I was going to relish the 4 days I was there.

On the first day, we just relaxed all day. We had breakfast which is buffet style and there is a huge choice of food to start your day with; delicious cheese omelettes, cereals, full English breakfasts, toast, fruit, coffee and juices. The weather was hot. Around 40 degrees but there was a lovely breeze and not much humidity so it didn’t feel so hot. There were quite a few people around but the atmosphere was so calm and peaceful it didn’t feel at all crowded or even as if anyone else was there.

The evening was spent with a quick wander around Abu Dhabi mall, which has a private entrance from the hotel, followed by dinner at Prego’s, a lovely Italian restaurant and one of Beach Rotana’s 11 places to eat. The pizza and pasta was delicious and afterwards we had a couple of cocktails in Trader Vic’s, a French Polynesian bar, where we listened to a band playing salsa music. Food, cocktails and music; simple pleasures in life. I could get used to this 5 star living.

Abu Dhabi is the playground of the rich. Just an hour and a half away from its more touristy neighbour, Dubai. There were construction sites all over the place so I imagine in a few years there will be even more hotels and tourist attractions but for now it has a real laid back feel to it.  From where I sat on the beach that day there is a bridge over to Al Maryah Island but there was hardly any traffic on it and what traffic there was you can hardly hear it. In fact, when I arrived and took a taxi from the airport, I was surprised by the lack of traffic. A less congested and smog-filled destination. It’s a refreshing change coming from Thailand.

Abu Dhabi

The following day, we took a trip to Dubai. We went to Dubai Mall and I was amazed at how plush it was. Probably, the most extravagant mall I have ever been in. The souk area had Greek-like columns and huge extravagant lighting, there were carpets on the floor and there was even a huge aquarium which was home to some beautiful fish. Flash eh?

We had planned to take a trip up the Burj Khalifa; Dubai’s iconic tower, but we were told that the tickets were more expensive if we bought them on the day. If you book a day ahead you can get the tickets for around 125 AED (21 GBP) but on the day they were 400AED (67 GBP.) So we went to see how much a bus tour of the city would cost. The bus tour takes four hours and you can get on and off where you want and much cheaper than the ticket for the Burj Khalifa. However, after a little conversation about the fact that it was too hot to be sitting on a bus for four hours and we probably wouldn’t be in Dubai again for the foreseeable future, we went back to get tickets to go up the Burj Khalifa.

It really was worth the expense though and I am very glad we decided to; the views are phenomenal. In the lift, the guy gave us a little speech about the history of the tower and told us that it takes around 1 minute to get up to the 124th floor.

Dubai

Since it was completed in 2010, the Burj Khalifa is ranked as the tallest building in the world, and on the observation deck you can enjoy 360 degree views of the surrounding area of Dubai.

It was busy with everyone having the same idea as us trying to get the best spot to take pictures of the sunset. We stayed up there for a couple of hours, and we were glad we did because the views became even more spectacular when the sun went down and the neon lights of the city came on. We took so many photographs; it was an amazing experience.

In the distance you can see the Burj Al Arab Hotel, the world’s only 7 star hotel, and Palm Jumeirah and the World; only in Dubai will you find a group of islands shaped into a palm tree and the world both of which house a range of  luxury hotels, residential beach villas and apartments, marinas, water theme parks, restaurants, malls, sports facilities and spas.

When we decided to go back down we queued for about twenty minutes, and we were nearly at the lift before we remembered we had fast track tickets. Having paid 400 AED each, one would expect a little reward. We laughed when we realised that we could have got down much sooner.

The next thing we saw at Dubai Mall was the Dubai Fountain and, I have to say, it is one of the most spectacular things I have ever witnessed. It gave me goosebumps. The Dubai Fountain sprays 22,000 gallons of water into the air in many different combinations and patterns and, accompanied by music, the water appears to dance as it is projected upwards.

Outside the mall, we amused ourselves by taking photographs of the very expensive but very beautiful cars. I am not one for cars but even I had to admire them. Money talks in that part of the world and people were pulling up in there Maseratis, Roll Royces and Audis, getting out and leaving them for the valet service to park.

We watched as one guy was parking his car at the same time as another guy, in a range rover, drove into the same space. They proceeded to argue with the range rover guy saying that it was over an hour to get parked and how much money did the valet guy want so he could park there. I don’t think he got away with it; if everyone did that there would be total chaos.

The next day, we slept through breakfast until the early afternoon and relaxed on the beach for a couple of hours. Then, in the evening, we got dressed up and went to Indigo; a lovely Indian restaurant and another of the hotel’s many restaurants. Afterwards, we laid by the beach under the cool night sky chatting about what we had done there. A perfect end to a perfect few days.

On the journey home, at Mumbai airport, all I could hear was “flight to Abu Dhabi departing…..” and I was on my way home. Time goes far too quickly sometimes but I enjoyed every second and it’s a trip I will always remember.

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